The University of ChicagoA History

The University of ChicagoA History

John W. Boyer

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226242514

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book is a history of the University of Chicago, from its first founding in 1857 through its re-founding in 1890 till today. It presents the story of the emergence and growth of a complex academic community, particularly the College, focusing on the nature of its academic culture and curricula, the experience of its students, its engagement with Chicago’s civic community, and the resources and conditions that have enabled the University to sustain itself. It focuses on two issues particular to undergraduate liberal arts colleges set within larger research universities. First, while the University’s relationship to the undergraduate College has been unpredictable, that relationship has had enormous influence over the identity and fiscal health of the larger institution. Second, Chicago’s history reveals a unique chronological flow within the story of American higher education, in that its “Golden Age” of fiscal bounty and rising ambitions came before 1945. Yet its successes proved fragile precisely because Chicago found itself on a different demographic trajectory than its peers, characterized by a collapse of undergraduate enrolment in the 1950s that profoundly disadvantaged the welfare of the University in the next forty years. These two themes run through an unusually complicated and controversial history, which has been shrouded at many points by layers of myth and hearsay. It is the contention of this book that one can most accurately uncover such a university history by addressing questions to sources that can be authenticated and compared with other sources.